For a number of years the Leiden International Film Festival (LIFF) has grown to become a serious player in the Dutch festival circuit. There is no shortage of ambition if you look at the way the organization has attracted American talent to the Netherlands with the American Indie Competition. During an earlier edition, the up-and-coming director Alex Ross Perry was a guest (later more about his newest movie) and visitors could discover indie hits like Whiplash (2014) and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015) at the festival.
This year you can also see new American talent. In Brigsby Bear (2017) we follow the quirky James, a thirty something obsessive fan of an obscure children’s show. When his beloved show ends, he tries to continue the story by crawling into the skin of the main character Brigsby Bear. The lovers in Band Aid (2017) are also creative and give their relationship a bit more spunk by writing songs about their daily quarrels.
In addition to American cinema, LIFF also focuses on Scandinavian films in the Nordic Watching programme. Within that selection you can see Joachim Trier’s (Reprise (2006), Louder Than Bombs (2015)) latest movie, Thelma (2017). A supernatural love story with subtle horror-elements. Ruben Östlund’s art world satire The Square (2017) will also be shown, the winner of the Golden Palm at Cannes starring Elisabeth Moss. In the regular programme, you can find new titles from the likes of Michael Haneke, with his family drama Happy End (2017), or Richard Linklaterm. His Last Flag Flying (2017) is an intimate portrait of war veterans who bury a fallen brother in arms, and closes out the festival.
One of the screenings to look forward to in particular is that of the wonderful science fiction animation film Fantastic Planet (1973). The young Dutch pianist and organist Matteo Mijderwijk will provide a live soundtrack. In addition to his music, the film will be live-read by the local theater group Al Dente. Forty four years ago, the film won the Special Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and Fantastic Planet is still a wonderfully strange trip, especially for animation and science fiction enthusiasts.
The American Indie competition will feature aforementioned Alex Ross Perry’s new film Golden Exits (2017). Perry can rightly be called one of the greatest indie talents of recent years. In Golden Exits, the young and beautiful Naomi moves to Brooklyn to work for an archivist whose family she eventually gets to know. Her presence does not remain without consequences: Naomi unintentionally attracts all the men in her new social circle. Perry’s movies are characterized by the somewhat bitter sense of humour and are full of naughty, annoying characters in which you can easily recognize your own friends, family and acquaintances. The previous movies by Perry did not reach the Dutch cinemas and Golden Exits thankfully has found a notable place at LIFF.
Even outside the competition, LIFF has all kinds of gems. The German Wilde Maus, for example; the directorial debut of actor Georg Hader for which he wrote the script and in which he himself plays the lead role. In this witty tragicomedy, a music critic loses his job at the newspaper. Out of wrath he decides to destroy his boss’ car as often as possible and fools everyone around him into believing that he is still working for the newspaper. While it’s getting harder to hide his lies, his girlfriend wants to get pregnant, but to no avail. With Wilde Maus (2017), Hader shows that he is able to deliver an excellent performance as an actor, but also convinces as a director and a writer.